Vail History

A visit to Vail Colorado is a visit to the history of skiing. Back in World War II, when the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division trained in the Colorado high country, they had no idea these grounds would one day become a popular winter recreation paradise. Where soldiers were once taught to watch for snipers and enemy ski patrols, modern-day skiers and snowboarders today now enjoy the excitement of the rugged mountainous wilderness of the area surrounding Vail Colorado, Leadville, Beaver Creek and Aspen.

The 10th Mountain Division had its beginnings at Camp Hale Colorado during World War II. Soldiers were trained to fight and survive under the most brutal mountain conditions. The troops saw action during World War II in Italy and the Alps. When the soldiers returned home in November 1945, many were responsible for the postwar growth of skiing. They created ski magazines, improved ski equipment, built ski lifts and founded resorts such as Vail Colorado, Aspen, Sugarbush, ME, and Whiteface Mountain, NY.

Peter Seibert, who was born on 7 Aug 1924, in Sharon, MA, founded Vail Colorado. In 1943, he joined the U.S. Army and volunteered for the 10th Mountain Division, where he trained for high-altitude winter combat. His training took place at Camp Hale, which was the Colorado training camp that was named after General Irving Hale. The National Ski Patrol was given the authority to recruit skiers for this decision.

However, help with the recruitment process came in an unexpected way, from, of all places, Hollywood. Darryl Zanuck, head of 20th Century Fox Studios, was an avid recreational skier. After producing Sun Valley Serenade, he decided to make a film about the latest techniques in ski instruction. In the hopes that the film would give troops a paradigm to follow, the 87th allowed five of its best skiers to be in the film. Zanuck asked Otto Lang, one of the first ski instructors from St.Anton to come to the US, to direct the film. Ski filmmaker John Jay assisted the production. For the action sequences, Lang put anoraks and caps on his 10 best instructors. One of these was Fred Iselin, who would eventually become the director of the Ski Schools of Aspen.

After the war, while working at Loveland Ski Resort in 1957, Peter Seibert and his longtime friend Earl Eaton took a look at what is now called Vail Mountain. After they survived seven-hour the climb that was probably the mountain's first descent on skis, Seibert and Eaton became decided to build "the most beautiful ski resort in the world."

On 9 Jan 1960, Peter Seibert gathered a group of nine men together for the first meeting of the board of directors for what would eventually become Vail Resorts Inc, America's largest ski company. You can read about Seibert in his book, Vail: Triumph of a Dream.

You can also experience the 10th Mountain experience by taking one of the most unique Vail ski vacations, the 10th Mountain Division Hut to Hut Tour. These Vail ski vacations usually last three days. Although there are a variety of routes, one of the most popular goes from Vail to Aspen. This Vail vacation not only lets you practice your backcountry skills. You get to stay at the same huts that were used by the 10th Mountain Division.

Another option for your Vail vacation is to explore Colorado ski history by visiting the Colorado Ski Museum. The museum features the Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame, which is located at the top of the Vail Transportation Center

Of course, Vail ski vacations at the actual Vail resort, as well as the nearby Beaver Creek, can also be a fantastic experience. Both of these areas are huge! They offer a wide variety of trails for all levels of skill. Although Vail is famous for its back bowls, any who enjoys wide-open cruisers will feel as if they have died and gone to heaven. Many people take Vail vacations in order to enjoy some of the fantastic ski workshops, such as the Integrated Skiing workshop given in December.

A Vail vacation allows you to take a close look at Colorado's skiing history, along with a chance to enjoy some of the best skiing and riding in North America.

Image: Chris McLennen

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